The Grand Hotel (圓山大飯店) is one of Taipei‘s most beautiful examples of traditional architecture and it has been the iconic image that represented the city long before the phallic-looking Taipei 101 showed up to steal a bit of its thunder.
The hotel has been in operation since 1952 and has been greeting visitors to Taipei for decades. It sits on prime real estate on top of Yuanshan Mountain (圓山) which is close to the elevated expressway and everyone who visits the city will see it standing high above the mountain making it one of their first impressions of how amazing Taipei city is!
When the Chinese Nationalists escaped to Taiwan in 1949, it was noted that Taipei didn’t have any five-star hotels to entertain the foreign leaders and ambassadors who would often visit Taiwan. It was important for the government to quickly build a place suitable for world leaders because at that period in history, the KMT government in Taiwan represented "China" on the world stage and was an important ally in the war against communism in Asia.
Chiang Kai Shek thus decided to construct not only the tallest building in Taiwan (at the time) but the largest traditional Chinese building in the world which he believed would help to introduce Chinese culture to the west (as well as pushing traditional Chinese culture in Taiwan)
When the hotel was completed Chiang decided that he would make the Presidential Suite one of his many residences and offices - Today that presidential suite goes for about $5000US a night and offers amazing panoramic views of the city for anyone willing to shell out the cash.
The hotel has hosted several American Presidents as well as European and Asian leaders and recently deceased Singaporean dictator Lee Kwan Yew (李光耀) stayed over fourteen times.
Truthfully, I've never stepped foot inside the hotel - I hear the restaurant inside is also quite beautiful and the chefs working there are quite well-known - they even serve a hamburger that is supposed to be one of the best in the country.
For me, I like to look at the hotel from the outside, even though the scenery on the inside is supposed to be pretty awesome - I'm just not interested in seeing decorations that are a montage to the different Chinese dynasties.
I'd much prefer a more Taiwan-themed Grand Hotel featuring murals of the history of the island.
These days the Grand Hotel is packed with the richest of tourists visiting from China and even if they're not staying at the hotel, It has become one of the must-visit places on the itinerary of any travel guide showing them around town.
If you've got some free time after visiting the Confucius Temple, Bao-An Temple and the Lin-An Tai mansion, you can stop over at the Grand Hotel for some pictures before heading to the Shilin Night Market afterwards.
Visiting the hotel doesn't require a lot of time and it is just a short walk from the Jiantan MRT station (劍潭捷運站) Its great for some travel shots and a good memory of your trip to Taiwan.